Pet discoveries needn't be scientific

09/04/2012 12:00 AM

09/04/2012 4:38 PM

When I was in high school, I signed up for physics and calculus. I knew that to become a veterinarian I would have to develop a far greater grasp of science and math than the one I seemed to have been born with.

My physics teacher gave me a "C" out of mercy. My calculus teacher wasn't nearly as generous, and I spent the rest of my academic career – high school and college – sticking as close to the English department as I could. I abandoned all hope of veterinary medicine and settled (more or less) happily into a career as a writer specializing in pet care and veterinary medicine.

But that doesn't mean I'm incapable of making a brilliant scientific discovery.

Oh sure, maybe mine doesn't have anything to do with mass or energy. And OK, so maybe the people who hand out the Nobel Prizes won't be calling. But that doesn't mean my discovery has no significance to the lives of millions of people. Consider this: How often do you recognize the importance of, say, Einstein's work in your daily life?

Everyone who has spent more than a month with a cat or dog has stepped squarely into my discovery. In fact, stepping in it is just the way I happened upon it.

Call it Gina's Law of the Well-Placed Pet Mess. No matter how large the floor, pet-related organic matter will always be placed where a human being is most likely to plant a bare foot. If it lands on the floor, chances are you'll step in it.

Keep the cleaning supplies handy, and accept it as one of the absolute laws of nature. You have no other choice.

Of course, one can't rest on one's laurels. I'd been working until recently on proving my theory that the affection level of pets is directly related to the level of contrast between the color of their fur and that of the shirt you're wearing.

I thought I had it nailed when I discovered that my black sweater was irresistible to white cats. But then I noticed that my friend's golden retriever was just as eager to snuggle no matter what I was wearing, shedding her long, silky fur without regard to my reputation as a scientist.

I've now shelved the Gina's Law of Shedding in favor of a field of study that shows more promise: the apparent ability of pets to do whatever is most embarrassing to you in front of the person you'd be most mortified to have see it. Call it Gina's Law of That's Not My Pet: I Think He Belongs to the Neighbors.

When one of my dogs brought my dirty underwear out to meet a person I'd just starting seeing (in what I hoped would become a romantic way), I knew I was on to something. And then a friend called with the exciting news that her dog had managed on a recent occasion to upchuck what was clearly a feminine hygiene product in front of a visiting minister.

With news like that, can you fault me for believing that my best scientific discoveries are still in front of me? All that's left is to name the phenomenon and wait for the media to call.

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